Boston, Mass. -- Nine organizations and individuals in Massachusetts were honored today at the 2013 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony of the US Environmental Protection Agency. They were among 28 recipients across New England recognized for their significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem-solving.
The merit awards allow EPA to recognize individuals and groups whose work has protected or improved the region’s environment in distinct ways. Given out by EPA annually since 1970, the merit awards honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.
“The people, communities and businesses being recognized today are leaders in helping create a cleaner environment and healthier communities across New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA New England.
The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Massachusetts listed here by category are:
Environmental, Community, Academia, & Non-profit Organizations Environmental Merit Award
American Lung Association of the Northeast
The American Lung Association of the Northeast is committed to the goal of tighter air quality standards leading to improved lung health and more lives saved. Over the past four years this organization has successfully put in place three significant programs to update woodstoves in Western Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. These programs give woodstove owners a chance to exchange dirtier, less efficient woodstoves for new EPA-certified woodstoves, or pellet or gas stoves. Half of the more than 300 stoves replaced were at least 40 years old. Working with retailers, the Lung Association made sure old woodstoves were destroyed and replacement units were professionally installed, which assured code compliance and minimized the danger of a fire.
These woodstove programs improve air quality and provide an economic benefit to retailers. With each program, demand for replacing old woodstoves was so great, funds were exhausted and the programs closed in less than a month. The three 2012 programs cost $500,000. The American Lung Association of the Northeast is providing expert consultations to potential programs throughout the country that see these Woodstove Changeout Programs as models.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Hospitals must care for patients without creating new health or environmental problems. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has taken this challenge seriously for 15 years through a variety of initiatives. Staff have learned about the dangers of mercury and worked to remove it from the medical center. A full-time energy manager was added seven years ago and four years ago, a Sustainability Committee was set up that drafted a plan that is being put in place by a full-time sustainability coordinator. That committee has seen progress in several areas. The center’s recycling rate has jumped from 20 to 33 percent thanks to a scrap metal program, single stream recycling, regular donations of surplus furniture and medical supplies, increased battery and electronic waste recycling and composting. The hospital has reduced total waste by switching to reusable containers and removing items not used from prepackaged operating room kits. It reduced paper consumption and junk mail, and promoted reusable mugs so their use jumped from 1 to 25 percent of cafeteria drink sales.
Beth Israel also committed to reducing energy consumption by 25 percent by 2020. So far it is has seen an 8.8 percent reduction in water use, close to its 2015 goal of 8 percent. The hospital replaced its public safety car with a hybrid, then worked with neighboring hospitals to consolidate shuttles, which led to a 30 percent drop in fuel consumption. The hospital also promoted the benefits of green commuting, which led to a drop in employees driving alone from 43 to 36 percent over three years. Now Beth Israel is working with neighboring institutions to increase the carpool rate in the Longwood Medical area.
Second Nature, Inc.
Since 1993, Second Nature has worked to create an environmentally sustainable society by transforming higher education. The Boston-based organization has supported senior college and university leaders in making sustainable living a foundation in higher education, where they hoped to reach future leaders. The idea was that if higher education institutions operate as communities that teach, research, and model environmental sustainability, then the graduates will transmit those values in workplaces and home lives, propelling society toward a sustainable future.
In 2007, Second Nature initiated the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which has involved hundreds of campuses nationwide. As a result, higher education was the first U.S. sector with a coherent, critical mass publicly committed to climate neutrality. In New England, 92 institutions representing 36 percent of the colleges and universities in the region have signed on. This represents 530,817 students and 138 million square feet of built environment. Nationwide, 670 institutions have joined the commitment, representing 6 million students. More than 30 of those who joined have set a climate neutrality date within the next 20 years. Three of them - all three in New England - have already reached the goal of climate neutrality. Some 20 New England institutions together saved $29.5 million in energy costs. The hundreds of institutions that are part of this commitment are generating innovative approaches to addressing climate change. Second Nature recognizes the leaders among them through the annual Climate Leadership Awards. Since Second Nature initiated the awards in 2010, eight New England colleges and universities have been recipients. Since its launch in 2007, international higher education representatives have approached Second Nature about expanding the model beyond the U.S. In Scotland, Peru, Australia and Canada, programs have been crafted with Second Nature work as a model.
Representatives of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston; Colby College of Waterville, Maine; and The University of Maine, all attended today’s ceremony representing the New England signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
Shaping the Future of Your Community Program, Mass Audubon
In the past decade, more than 8,000 acres of forest and farmland was lost to residential development each year. These development patterns are unsustainable environmentally, socially, and economically. The need to improve land use is especially urgent in light of high-intensity storms and other climate change-related impacts. Mass Audubon’s Shaping the Future of Your Community Program helps communities understand and use tools for sustainable development. The program is based on the idea that economic development and conservation go hand-in-hand, rather than being in conflict. Local and regional plans identify targeted areas for development, such as existing town centers and other areas with infrastructure, and priority areas for conservation. The Shaping program supports putting in place these plans using information specific to towns.
In 2012, Shaping the Future presented 19 programs to nearly 800 municipal leaders and citizens. Exit surveys show more than 95 percent of participants planned on doing follow-up activities as a result of their participation. Audubon staff members provide support to initiatives sparked by the programs, helping citizens take an idea and make it a reality to prevent habitat fragmentation; safeguarding water supplies; protecting recreational, agricultural, and forestry opportunities; preserving community character; and reducing transportation, energy, and infrastructure costs. The program works with land trusts, watershed associations, and the state, among others. As a result, communities adopted the Community Preservation Act, updated open space plans, formed local land trusts, created an agricultural commission, revised zoning to protect land, and adopted zoning for development of solar arrays.
Business, Industry, Trade or Professional
New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission Wastewater Management School
The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission created a Wastewater Management School, also known as Wastewater Management Boot Camp. This program started in Rhode Island and has expanded to Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut. The program has succeeded largely because it can be tailored to fit the specific needs of each state. For example, Maine includes drinking water operators while New Hampshire connects the program to its state’s certified public manager program. Small states like New Hampshire run the program every other year, while larger states run it annually.
Some of the wastewater management schools also work with the Office of Water Programs at the California State University in Sacramento. The New Hampshire school uses California’s textbook, Manage for Success: Effective Utility Leadership Practices, and its exam, which helps the program achieve national recognition. Wastewater managers must be able to do public speaking. This program has allowed New Hampshire to incorporate public speaking into the program. It is a program that is being replicated to help wastewater operators to gain essential management skills to deal with aging infrastructure, with elected officials, and staff. The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission should be recognized for its efforts to bring the Wastewater Management School to other states.
Anthony D. Cortese
Anthony Cortese is a senior fellow of Second Nature, an organization based in Boston and committed to promoting sustainability through higher education. Cortese co-founded Second Nature with then-US Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts; Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry; and environmentalist and educator Bruce Droste. As president of Second Nature from 1993 to 2012, Cortese organized the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and co-founded both the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the Higher Education Association Sustainability Consortium. Cortese was formerly the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and was the first dean of environmental programs at Tufts University. At Tufts, he founded the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute in 1989 that helped integrate environmental and sustainability perspectives into more than 175 courses.Cortese also organized the effort that resulted in the internationally acclaimed Talloires Declaration of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future in 1990, now signed by more than 350 presidents and chancellors in more than 50 countries. Cortese is a frequent consultant on sustainability to higher education, industry and non-profit organizations.
Cortese is a trustee of Tufts University and Green Mountain College and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been actively engaged in large system sustainability challenges for 40 years. Cortese has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tufts University in civil and environmental engineering, a doctorate in environmental health from the Harvard School of Public Health, and an honorary doctorate from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and the University of Maine in Presque Isle.
Thomas M. Menino
Mayor of Boston
As mayor of Boston for 20 years, Thomas M. Menino has dedicated his time and energy to making Boston a better place to live, work and visit. He has been determined to revitalize Boston’s neighborhoods, promote a healthy lifestyle for all city residents, spur business growth, and strengthen partnerships between the private and public sectors—all while making Boston a more sustainable community now and into the future. From 1995’s Environmental Blueprint to 2011’s A Climate of Progress, Mayor Menino has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make Boston a national leader in climate action. The city met its 2012 reduction goal ahead of schedule and is on track to meeting the 2020 city-wide goal. Such accomplishments are a result of Mayor Menino’s strong environmental agenda.
In 2007 Boston became first in the nation to adopt a green building standard for large private developments. His latest green building accomplishment was an ordinance that requires large- and medium-sized buildings to report their energy and water use to the city, which passed last month.
Mayor Menino has also put Boston on course to being the most climate prepared and resilient city in the country with the Climate Ready Boston initiatives he announced in February. Mayor Menino has made it easier for all Bostonians to be more sustainable with such programs as: Renew Boston, which has connected almost 5,000 residents with weatherization services; single-stream recycling; Complete Streets, which has taken the mantra of “the car is no longer king” and made Boston a great biking and walking city with new bike lanes, Hubway Bikeshare and new streetscapes designed for walking and biking; and most recently, Greenovate Boston, which connects all residents and businesses to Boston’s suite of sustainability services and resources. Over his 20 years of leadership, Mayor Menino has established Boston as a national leader in urban sustainability, to the benefit of current and future generations for the years to come.
John V. Fernandes and Richard T. Moore
New England’s surface waters are increasingly choked by plants whose growth are fueled by polluted stormwater. Many once clear ponds and rivers now resemble putting greens and lush meadows, tough places for fish to flourish. A study of the Charles River indicated that municipalities need to cut discharge of phosphorus from their storm drains in half if the river is to be healthy. Looking for ways to control phosphorus in stormwater runoff, State Rep. John Fernandes of Milton and State Sen. Richard T. Moore of Uxbridge, worked with EPA to draft a law that would reduce phosphorus in fertilizers and get it through the state Legislature to the governor. They pulled in the Massachusetts Municipal Association, Massachusetts Audubon Society and the 495/MetroWest Partnership of businesses.
Signed by Governor Patrick, the law will allow for the use of phosphorus in fertilizer only if a soil test indicates it is necessary. And this fertilizer will only be allowed for establishing new lawns. Finally, vendors will have to display these fertilizers separately and post signs specifying when and where they can be used. These two lawmakers came up with a simple, fast and smart way to reduce phosphorus loads to surface waters statewide. They deserve the recognition for their leadership role as Phosphorus Busters.
YouthBuild Boston, Inc., Roxbury, Mass.
Peter Hinrichs, formerly with YouthBuild Boston, Roxbury, currently runs a horticultural program at the Learning Prep School in Newton Massachusetts. During the time he worked at YouthBuild Boston, he was a key figure in EPA New England’s efforts to promote rain gardens and reduce stormwater pollution. Hinrichs has worked with the agency over the past year to train youth and neighborhood groups to install rain gardens in Boston and around New England. Hinrichs collaborated with EPA New England as well as the Boston Greenway Conservancy and recently began working with staff from Springfield to plan a rain garden training for that community, working with high school teachers and students.
Hinrichs also led students from YouthBuild’s Boston and Lowell programs to put in more than 300 plants for a rain garden along the driveway of EPA’s New England Regional Laboratory in North Chelmsford last fall. This was part of EPA’s Soak Up the Rain Challenge to reduce stormwater impacts in New England. Hinrichs also developed the design and supervised installation of a rain garden at Dewey Square in Boston as part of an Earth Day event. Over the past 20 years, Peter Hinrichs has used education as the cornerstone of his career in landscape design and horticulture. He has used this approach in his work in public horticulture, landscape construction and more recently workforce development to work with people of all backgrounds and ages to educate them about the importance of the environment as it relates to everyday life. Through his work, Hinrichs hopes to use cutting edge and practical learning tools in horticulture, design and the environment to foster the future stewards of the environment.
More information on EPA New England Environmental Merit Awards (http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/index.html)